Ghostly Dad In The Corner
Read this father’s account of being invisible during a baby scan appointment.
I sat there in silence. My feet tapping. Feeling numb and unsure what was about to come. I played with my wedding ring in a distracted kind of way and hoped that everything would be OK but stopping myself believing it too much in case it didn’t pan out the way I hoped.
She stood there, staring at the screen. Tapping buttons and adjusting dials. I stared at her. She stared at the screen. The room silent except for the sound of the buttons being depressed. I longed for her to look my way. To smile. To acknowledge my feeling of impending doom or my existence as a minimum.
But no. She kept tapping away and staring at her screen like I didn’t even exist.
I feel I should give you a little background information before I continue. I have a beautiful wife, Fi and amazing 2 and a half year old daughter, Esme and we are all doing really well. Last year we decided that baby number 2 would be a good idea.
Conception took a good few months to happen but when it did we were overjoyed. A few short weeks later there was some blood. Not a huge amount but enough to worry Fi which worried me.
We looked into it and found that some women do bleed a little during pregnancy so it didn’t seem so bad. But the bleeding continued so we went for a scan. It was inconclusive. We went back 10 days later and had another scan. It showed that things were not right and that a miscarriage had happened. We were both devastated and in time we got over it (as much as you can) and tried again.
After a few months of trying Fi told me she had come on so no baby this time. But a few days later she walked into the room looking stunned. “You know I said I wasn't pregnant because I came on a few days ago? Well I am pregnant!”
It took me a while to understand how being pregnant and being on your period can happen at the same time but it can apparently. Who knew?
But then a month or so later there was some more blood. It was all looking frighteningly similar to what happened when Fi had the miscarriage. We went for a scan but it was inconclusive so we went back 11 days later which is where we re-join the story…
Fi entered the room. She looked pale and really nervous. She smiled at me and instantly I felt a little better. The woman who would do the scan barely looked up from her screen but she did acknowledge my wife. The nurse who came in with Fi fussed around her and helped reassure her which I know my wife appreciated but again no-one even looked my way, said a word to me or made me a part of what was happening.
Fi went behind the curtain to take off her lower clothes. Meanwhile I sat there like an invisible ghost, fully aware of where I was and what was about to happen but it was although no-one knew I was even there.
Fi came back with a sheet wrapped around her and sat on the couch and put her feet in the stirrups.
“Now we know you had a miscarriage earlier in the year Mrs. Hennessy and so are familiar with this department in the hospital. Just to remind you the reason we are all here today is to check on the developments of your pregnancy. The scan 11 days ago showed no heart beat and the measurements were inconclusive but it didn’t look good. The scan today should give us a much better idea of what is going on.”
Fi lay back and held my hand tightly while they scanned her womb, searching for the tiny signs of life.
We had both been trying so hard for the previous 2 weeks to put this looming moment out of our minds. Some days it was harder than others.
Over the years I have really tried hard to reduce my pessimistic inclinations and catastrophic thinking as I realised this was having a big impact on my moods and was a significant contribution to the depression I once suffered from. To a large degree I have been very successful in dropping this old way of thinking and feeling and my life has been a LOT more enjoyable since. But it is in moments of adversity that some people notice old habits find it most easy to return fully formed. This was something I definitely did not want.
So I focused on my wife. Squeezing her hand, just waiting for the news.
After a short time the woman operating the scanner began to turn the monitor towards Fi and we both held our breath. This was such a good sign, we both knew that but were afraid to let ourselves hope for the best in case it was bad news and we had the wrong end of the stick.
“If you look just there Mrs.Hennessy you can see your baby’s heartbeat. That looks like the head over there and that is the sack that the baby is floating in.” Said the woman operating the scanner.
What a relief!
Fi started to shake uncontrollably as the news sank in. I felt a wave of relief sweep through my body and I realised just how tense and nervous I had been just moments before.
In what seemed like no time we were out of the hospital and at my mum’s house to tell her and little Esme the good news. In talking through my relief and joy with my mum and wife I began to realise how I had been treated throughout the scan. My presence was not acknowledged. My fears and worries were not addressed once in any way what so ever. I may as well not have been there as far as the majority of the health professionals I saw that day were concerned.
And I realised that this was not for the first time that it had happened. On our visits for scans when Fi was expecting Esme and for the miscarriage scans I was invisible to the vast majority of the staff in the hospital.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know I'm not the focus of attention in moments like this and I’m not looking for a “there there” attitude from the hospital staff or even from you reading this. I just want my existence to be acknowledged in a very difficult and stressful time. Yes, my wife is carrying the baby and she is the one having the scan but it takes two to tango and I am there, holding my wife’s hand, looking as pale and scared and nervous as she is.
I think that I was present at the scan says a lot about the type of person I am and that I want to be just as involved in the process even though I am not the one carrying the baby.
What would have made a difference to my experience? Eye contact. A smile. One or two words of reassurance. That’s it. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. Is it?
I know the NHS is stretched to almost breaking point but that is the bigger picture. What health professionals need to remember is that for each individual person or couple the bigger picture is meaningless. All that matters to them is that specific moment in time.
I know people like the woman who did the scan see tens or even hundreds of people every day but each one of those patients is a person and I think deserves to have some basic courtesy extended to them.
If there are any health care professionals reading this who do make the effort to make a difficult situation as manageable as they can for the people they see great. I’m not tarring you all with the same brush. I’m just describing my experience of being ‘The Husband’.
What do you think of this story? Have you had a similar experience or have you always felt fully included during your baby's scan? Let us know by leaving a comment below.